MADISON (WKOW) -- It was a day of hurry and wait on Monday, with a mix of holiday procrastination.
"The weather was so bad (last week), I couldn't get over here before with the roads being so badly iced up and everything," said Madison resident Diane Lezama. She was standing in line at the west Madison Post Office on Struck Street to mail off Hanukkah and Christmas cards.
"I like the human touch," she said. "I find it much nicer to talk to humans," citing why she decided not to use the automated processing kiosks in the post office's lobby.
Lezama wasn't the only one waiting in line. Monday marked the busiest mailing day of the year. USPS expects 830 million letters and packages to be postmarked on Monday. Of those, more than a million will come from the Madison area.
"Since I've been here, the door is constantly open," said local spokesperson Karen Cronin.
During the holiday rush, however, the Madison area locations have fewer workers on hand to take those festive greetings.
Cronin said the USPS ordered all branches to find a way to cut costs. "We do see a downsize in revenue at our window units," she noted.
The solution by managers in Madison was to offer early retirements in October to senior employees, and then reshuffle remaining workers.
"So to reposition those employees with no layoffs, the junior employees were offered positions that were vacated by retirees."
The bottom line is that there are about two dozen fewer postal employees in Madison. Many of them were reassigned away from their window clerk positions.
As a result, Cronin said the long holiday lines might be a little slower than in years past. She's asking people, if possible, to use the automated kiosks instead.
For those who like that human touch, however, there were few complaints. Lezama said the wait was "Not as bad as I expected, by any stretch of my imagination." As for beating a mailing deadline, she joked "the Hanukkah holiday last eight days, so it doesn't matter"
Not everyone was laughing at the matter, however. Martin Mater, the president for Madison Wisconsin Area Local of American Postal Workers Union, said he understood the need to cut costs. As to the timing, however, he said "It's the worst time of the year you can do it."
Mater also said he intends to file a complaint because of what he called relative short notice for those re-assignments.
As for mailing deadlines, international mailing needs to go out by Tuesday to guarantee arrival by Christmas Day. International mailing must be done at a window, not at the kiosks.
It's recommended domestic priority mail be sent by December 21.
The automated kiosks in the lobby of the east side location on Milwaukee Street and the west side location on Struck Street will be open 24-7. Cronin notes that the only stamps the machines sell right now are those that are holiday-themed.
Online reporting by Carl Agnelly.
Follow Carl Agnelly on Twitter @agnelly_WKOW